Boxing

The dream goes on: IBF champ Errol Spence Jr. plans to dazzle at home at the Ford Center

Watch welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr. train for his upcoming match at the Ford Center

IBF Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr. grew up in Cedar Hill loving football and the Dallas Cowboys. Now he just wants to dazzle in front of friends and family in his first home title defense Saturday night at the Ford Center in Frisco.
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IBF Welterweight Champion Errol Spence Jr. grew up in Cedar Hill loving football and the Dallas Cowboys. Now he just wants to dazzle in front of friends and family in his first home title defense Saturday night at the Ford Center in Frisco.

Like most kids in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Errol Spence Jr. grew up loving the sport of football and dreaming of one day playing professionally for his hometown team, the Dallas Cowboys.

Sometimes dreams don’t end up like you want them to. They end up like they are supposed to.

Sure enough, on Saturday night Spence will take center stage at the world headquarters of those Dallas Cowboys - the Ford Center in Frisco.

And the world will be watching.

Spence, who gave up football for boxing when he was in high school at Cedar Hill, is now a star in his own right.

As the undefeated IBF welterweight champion with a record 23-0, including 20 knockouts, he will be the main attraction as he defends his title against the undefeated Carlos Ocampo on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing.

It’s not lost on Spence that’s he’s come a long way. Not just from quitting the Cedar Hill football team at the age of 15 to focus on boxing. Not just from becoming a Golden Glove state champion and making the 2012 U.S. Olympic boxing team.

But also from his first pro match at the Bomb Factory in Dallas three years ago to winning the world title against Kell Brook in England last summer and defending it against Lamont Peterson in January. Now, he's boxing at home as the main event before a sellout crowd at the Ford Center with promises of bigger bouts, bigger venues and bigger paydays to come.

“It is kind of crazy,” Spence said. “Me fighting at the Bomb Factory as the co-main event and now fighting in front of 15,000 fans at the Star with the Cowboys supporting you and a lot of the players supporting you and things like that. A lot of big-time people supporting you from Dallas. It is kind of crazy when you think about it.

"Now, everybody's eyes are on me. Everybody's coming to see me fight. They bought the tickets to see Errol Spence fight because I'm the main event, I have the title.…Lot of blood, sweat and tears and sacrifice went into this grind, and I'm just gracious to be in the position I am in now.”

Said trainer Derrick James: “This is huge. I think coming back home, being in his hometown and it’s like a dream come true. Because it’s like as a kid, you hope one day that you could, like he said, maybe he thought he could play for the Cowboys. He didn’t do that, but he’s fighting professionally at the home of the Cowboys, so it’s great.”

Because he is at home and wants to put on a show, there is little chance that Spence will overlook the over-matched Ocampo. Despite an undefeated record of his own, Ocampo (22-0, 13 KOs) is stepping up in class with Spence, as well as fighting outside of his home country of Mexico for the first time.

Spence has a streak of 11 straight knockouts and is considered a rising star in boxing.

He will get a chance to fight the likes of Danny Garcia or Keith Thurman with the hopes of one day unifying all the belts from boxing organizations across the division if he gets past Ocampo.

“That is what is helping me not looking over this opponent,” Spence said. “I can't fight Keith Thurman or Danny Garcia if I don't get past this opponent. I got to look at him first and beat him first before I can talk about anybody else. That is my whole thing. That is the competitive edge with me is I am fighting at home. I want to please the crowd. And I don't want to disappoint the crowd. I am really training extra hard.”

Spence wants to put on a show because this is home and he will be fighting in front of family and friends who have been supporting him since he first started boxing.

But he doesn’t feel any pressure.

He overcame that when he traveled across the pond and stopped Brook before 30,000 on his home turf.

“It was more pressure going to England and fighting in front of 30,000 rival fans than fighting in front of 15,000 fans supporting you,” Spence said. “It’s something different in front of 30,000 rival fans and they’re all screaming and throwing stuff at you and you’re just sucking in all that negative energy. I think this time around it’s going to be great.”

By all measurements it already is great with the Ford Center expected to be filled to capacity, the Dallas dignitaries and several Cowboys players in attendance and the goal of one day having a Pacquiao-type fight at AT&T Stadium.

"That is the key to it. You have to show the people your power, right, not in the ring but outside of the ring," James said. "You have to let the people know what you can actually do from a promotional standpoint. And he’s the co-promoter in this venture. This is his first one. The tickets are selling really well.

"The goal is AT&T Stadium. It really is. There’s always bigger and better. Everybody wants … with Pacquiao, with Canelo, they’ve made it a place, so we want to do it also, to be honest. It’s a growth process. It’s a maturity. With the right opponent, whoever that is, we can sell it."

For Spence those are bigger and better thoughts. His focus is on Ocampo and the show he plans to put on Saturday night at the Ford Center in what is just the continuation of a dream that began when he was a kid. He plans to soak it all up.

“The dream always was there,” said Spence, who transferred from Cedar Hill to DeSoto as a sophomore. “I always dreamed about, even in class, reminiscing and daydreaming about one day becoming a world champion, fighting professionally. Now that it’s happening, it’s great. It’s everything that I thought about. It’s everything I thought it would be.

“This is my hometown. It means a lot to put on a great performance in front of them and for them to show their support. It’s going to be a great event. I can’t wait."

Clarence E. Hill Jr.: @clarencehilljr



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